Chapter One

O
h. Holy. Yikes.
Pygmy elephants sound like they’d be ador-
able, but when they look ready to charge at you?
Mmm . . . not so much.
I crouch low in the tall African grasses, the stalks tick-
ling my bare calves below my skirt, and try to hold as still as
possible. News flash: not super easy in heels. Even the really
short kind, which is all Dad lets me wear. The narrow beam
from my flashlight wobbles, and I have to clamp one hand
on top of the other to steady it.
“Almost there,” comes Professor Mosley’s muffled voice.
“Aim the light a tad bit higher, Chloe. Something’s . . .
ooph! . . . stuck here.”
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I point the light near the face of the motionless tribes-
man, not particularly wanting to linger on the elaborately
painted designs covering his bare chest or on the spear in his
hand, poised to release. Let’s not discuss the skimpiness of
his clothing (if you can even call a loincloth “clothing”). Eww.
“Aaaaaand . . . got it. Goodness, this is frightfully awk-
ward. I might need a hand with this.” Professor Mosley, the
museum curator, gestures with a chin jerk for me to move
beside him in the glassed-in exhibit as he struggles with the
decorated headdress of an eighteenth-century African Irigwe
dodo dancer.
“I have to admit, this is not precisely what I had in mind
for my Friday night,” he says with a sigh, in a British accent
that might sound snooty if you didn’t know he’s actually
really nice.
I stretch my arms up to help him lower the ceremonial
costume from the head of the mannequin tribesman, careful
not to disturb any of the banana fronds along its edges.
“Kinda heard that one before, Professor . . . ,” I grunt as
the weight of the headdress hits me. How on earth did people
wear these things?
We tiptoe around the grass hut toward the exit at the
back of the glass case, which is:
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At Your Service
A. Again, not so easy in heels. Even mini ones.
B. Even less easy carrying something that
probably weighs more than the remarkably
realistic-looking elephant we have to
maneuver past.
C. No C, actually. But lists with only A and B look
sort of lonely.
A night guard nods to us as we step out. He hangs an
EXHIBIT CLOSED sign on the velvet ropes he’d set up along the
front of the display.
Professor Mosley tells him, “No need for concern, we’ll
have the display sorted out before opening time tomorrow.”
“You’re the boss, sir,” the guard says.
“And aren’t I cursing that fact tonight,” Professor Mos-
ley mutters, then turns to me. “Only for your father, young
lady. Truly, I cannot imagine anyone else I would open
the museum for after closing time to sneak out an African
headdress. And just so that one of your hotel guests can
have an impromptu wedding ceremony performed in tra-
ditional garb.”
It’s true, people will do practically anything for my dad. It
probably also doesn’t hurt that Professor Mosley knows Dad will
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be sure to send an insane number of guests to visit the American
Museum of Natural History’s new exhibit this week. Concierges
rely on favors, but we always try to return them quickly.
I say “we,” but really it’s Dad who’s the concierge. For
now, at least. Someday my name will be whispered in the
same worshiping tones he commands from everyone in the
hotel industry. At least I hope.
If you’ve ever stayed in a fancy hotel, you’ve probably seen
a concierge, tucked away at a podium or in an alcove to the
side of the check-in desk. If your parents needed theater tick-
ets or a dinner reservation or something just a tiny bit weirder,
like an incubator to keep the peacock eggs they’re traveling
with warm, they probably went straight to the concierge. And
if he (or she) was anything like my dad, he (or she!) got it for
them. Even the incubator. Dad likes to say there’s no such
thing as an outrageous request.
I don’t know about that, since I’ve heard guests ask for
some pretty crazy things (hello, if you need to sleep in a
hyperbaric chamber, you should probably just stay home),
but I do know Dad never disappoints.
“At your service,” he says with a smile to every guest who
approaches him at the St. Michèle, the very best (in my honest
opinion) hotel in New York City.
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At Your Service
Basically, if my dad can’t get it for you, it doesn’t exist.
At the moment I’m sort of wishing this headdress
didn’t exist, because it’s really awkward to carry. It’s taking
all my effort to keep it from scraping the floor and that’s
with Professor Mosley holding up his end and most of the
middle part.
We maneuver our borrowed treasure down the deserted,
dimly lit hallways of the museum, our footsteps echoing. I’m
glad when Professor Mosley starts making conversation. It
helps take my mind off the fact that if I drop this, I’ve pretty
much destroyed a priceless and irreplaceable museum arti-
fact, along with any hopes of following in Dad’s footsteps.
“Well, regardless of the circumstances, it’s always delight-
ful to see you, Chloe. Not only are you the spitting image of
your father, but you’re just like him when it comes to handling
the impossible.”
Okay, so there are a whole bunch of things wrong with
what he just said. First, even in his baby pictures, my dad never
had the little cluster of freckles that cover the top of my nose
and cheeks (which I either love or hate, mostly depending on
the day), and second, Dad’s hair is dark brown, like an éclair
from La Maison du Chocolat on Madison Avenue, while mine
is more the blondish color of the wet sand at Rockaway Beach.
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Plus PLUS, mine’s wavy, not straight, and I wear glasses.
But the part about my skills being like his makes me
squirm, half out of embarrassment and half out of pride. I know
they’re not. Yet. But they will be if I have anything to say in the
matter. I can’t think of any job that is more challenging but also
totally rewarding. Making people happy—even if it’s only for
the length of their vacation—is like having a superpower.
Professor Mosley lets loose with a giant sigh as we shuffle
along. “Truly, I am going to need a stiff brandy by the time
this night is over. Tell me, do they let eleven-year-olds into
bars these days?”
“I’m almost thirteen, but no, sir. It’s strictly Shirley Temples
for me.”
He grunts, shifting the weight of the headdress slightly. I
have to do a quick sashay-step to avoid tripping. I really don’t
envy the bride who’s going to have this thing on her head.
Now I get why the ceremony is seated.
Professor Mosley catches his breath for a second, then
asks, “So, this wedding . . . Am I to understand this guest
already had a million-dollar church ceremony a few days ago?
Was that one not elaborate enough?”
“Apparently the bride’s mother decided at the last minute she
couldn’t give her blessing to the marriage until a traditional tribal
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At Your Service
wedding is performed. Since the tribe is in Nigeria and we’re in
Manhattan, we’re improvising. All we want at this point is for
the bride to stop crying and start enjoying her honeymoon. The
other guests are starting to complain about the sobbing noises.”
“And your dear father was able to find a Nigerian fellow in
New York who knows the ritual? Amazing!”
I can see the door—and salvation—steps away. Yahoo.
My fingers cramp a little, and I try to wiggle them without
losing my grip.
“Dad’s still back at the hotel working out the details, but
he’s found someone.”
Pushing the emergency-exit door open with his back, Pro-
fessor Mosley guides us down a ramp and over to a limousine
parked behind the loading dock. My driver, Bill (well, really the
Hotel St. Michèle’s driver, on loan for official hotel business),
is waiting with the car doors open. He rushes over to take the
weight off my hands. Gotta love Bill. Together the two men
slide the headdress gingerly across the backseat of the limo.
When it’s safely in place, I finally let all the air out of my
lungs.
Reaching into the front seat for my sequined purse, I
pull out a neatly numbered to-do list and a pencil topped
with a fluffy yellow pom-pom that perfectly matches my
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canary-colored sweater set. It’s kind of a thing with me.
Every day I pick out the pen that matches my outfit and
tuck it into my purse. This is the kind of attention to details
that hotel staffers at ultrafancy hotels need to be very good
at, so I figure I should get in the habit as soon as possible.
I consult my list. Okay, so all we need now is some face
paint to stand in for colored clay, a wooden drum, and a
bunch of noise-canceling headphones for the guests in the
adjoining rooms. Easy peasy.
I make a million and twelve promises to the professor
that I will guard the headdress with my very life, then scoot
into the front seat next to Bill.
“Where to, Sunshine?” he asks.
As Bill slides the limousine into a swarm of yellow taxi-
cabs, I unlock my smartphone and begin punching buttons,
working off a list of numbers for instrument rental shops on
the Upper West Side.
Yup, just another day in the life of a concierge at New
York City’s finest hotel (well, technically in the life of the con-
cierge’s daughter, but still . . .). And if things continue to go
this awesomely, I’m one step closer to earning my own spot
among the legends in the hotel biz.

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